Coastal Communities in Louisiana, USA

Global climate change is greatly impacting coastal communities in Louisiana. National Commission on Environmental Justice on the Gulf Coast was formed to address the impact of on minority and low-income communities

Global climate change is greatly impacting coastal communities in Louisiana. Hurricanes Rita and Katrina wrecked havoc on these communities in 2005 and many continued to feel the effects for years afterwards. Prior to these hurricanes, 67% of New Orleans’ (a major city in coastal Louisiana) population was African American, a quarter of the total population of the city lived in poverty, and 75% of that number was African American [1]. While it is well known that the devastation cut across racial groups and economic classes, destroying hundreds of acres of farmland, hundreds of thousands of homes, and drowning many more acres of coastal land, there was relatively little flood damage in what researchers have termed the “White Teapot,” the geographical area along the natural levee of the Mississippi River where high elevations and low exposure to things such as industrial sites, railroads, unpaved roads, and dumps and where these wealthier populations had convenient access to public transportation and enjoyed good urban infrastructure [2]. To the contrary, low-income, predominantly African-American rural communities in the chemical corridor known as “Cancer Alley” between New Orleans and Baton Rouge were stranded without access to transportation during the hurricanes, many poor and elderly [3].
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Basic Data
NameCoastal Communities in Louisiana, USA
CountryUnited States of America
SiteTerrebonne County
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Climate change related conflicts (glaciers and small islands)
Specific CommoditiesCrude oil
Domestic municipal waste
Chemical products
Industrial waste
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
98 square miles of land changed to water in SW Louisiana after hurricanes Rita and Katrina; 119 square miles converted in SE Louisiana.
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Level of Investment (in USD)10,400,000,000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population500,000-1,200,000
Start Date23/08/2005
Relevant government actorsCity of New Orleans, State of Louisiana, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersTexas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (TEJAS), Deep South Center for Environmental Justice (DSCEJ), Bay Area Women’s Coalition, Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, North Gulfport Community Land Trust, Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative (EJCC), Bayou Interfaith Shared Community Organizing (BISCO), Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingLocal ejos
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Other Environmental impacts
OtherWetland loss
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases, Deaths
OtherHealth impacts as a result of mold spores in the air: nose and throat symptoms, coughing, wheezing, asthmas symptoms

Negative health effects and high levels of formaldehyde detected in trailers used for temporary housing- respiratory problems, nose bleeds, burning eyes, sore throats, chest congestion and repeated illness
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Other socio-economic impacts
OtherLack of transportation planning, especially for emergencies like hurricanes
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Development of AlternativesTwo potential solutions to the coastal communities' problem are that (1) disadvantaged New Orleans neighborhoods be provided an equal degree of structural flood control measures as the uptown and lakefront communities and (2) require a shared obligation among all strata of society to relocate into more protected areas at full and fair compensation
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Thousands of people's homes remained flooded for weeks and even after the waters were removed, these people had no home to return to and were forced to find housing outside the city where they continued to be without access to adequate infrastructure or resources. The city failed to provide the necessary resources to these populations, even when offered assistance by Amtrak. Funding was slow and limited and environmental restoration was severely lacking following the storms. Recovery is still underway more than 10 years later.
Sources and Materials

[1] Protecting Vulnerable Coastal Communities - A report by: The National Commission on Environmental Justice on the Gulf Coast and The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (2008)
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[2] Environmental Justice through the Eye of Hurricane Katrina by Reilly Morse at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Health Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. (2008)
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[3] Toxic Soup Redux: Why Environmental Racism and Environmental Justice Matter after Katrina - Social Science Research Council (Jun 11, 2006)
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[6] BISCO website - Our Environment: The Challenge, The Solution, Why BISCO?
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[5] Hurricane Spawns Flurry of Deregulation - NBC News (September 12, 2005)
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[4] Groups to Urge a Southern Initiative on Climate Change at People’s Climate March and Summit - Louisiana Justice Institute Blog (September 19, 2014)
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[7] EPA Climate Justice: Restoring the Louisiana Coast to Combat Future Effects of Climate Change - Carey Perry and Hilary Collis, EPA (7/15/14)
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How Katrina and Rita Affected the Delta
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Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Were Like Night and Day
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Understanding the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
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Other Documents

Cows in floodwaters after Katrina
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Home pushed inland by hurricane
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Hurricane Rita Evacuation Source:
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House- Post Hurricane Katrina
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USGS Satellite Image South Pass October 2004 and 2005 Comparison Source:
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Extent of oil spill of tank farm during Katrina Source:
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Aerial view of floodwaters surrounding homes after Katrina with fire in background Source:
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Meta Information
ContributorBernadette Grafton and Paul Mohai, [email protected] and [email protected], University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
Last update04/01/2016